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The Law in Nazi Germany

The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice

Alan E. Steinweis
Robert D. Rachlin
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Law in Nazi Germany
    Book Description:

    While we often tend to think of the Third Reich as a zone of lawlessness, the Nazi dictatorship and its policies of persecution rested on a legal foundation set in place and maintained by judges, lawyers, and civil servants trained in the law. This volume offers a concise and compelling account of how these intelligent and welleducated legal professionals lent their skills and knowledge to a system of oppression and domination. The chapters address why German lawyers and jurists were attracted to Nazism; how their support of the regime resulted from a combination of ideological conviction, careerist opportunism, and legalistic selfdelusion; and whether they were held accountable for their Nazi-era actions after 1945. This book also examines the experiences of Jewish lawyers who fell victim to anti-Semitic measures. The volume will appeal to scholars, students, and other readers with an interest in Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the history of jurisprudence.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-781-3
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: The Law in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
    (pp. 1-13)
    Alan E. Steinweis and Robert D. Rachlin

    The legal history of Nazi Germany has not attracted a great deal of attention from scholars, especially when compared to the huge body of publications available about other aspects of that regime.¹ Moreover, much of the important scholarship that does exist in this area has not been translated from German into English.² This is unfortunate, as both the law and the conduct of legal professionals did much to influence the tragic course of German history in the twentieth century. There are several factors that may explain this lacuna. Legal history has been out of fashion among academic historians on both...

  6. Chapter 1 The Conundrum of Complicity: German Professionals and the Final Solution
    (pp. 15-35)
    Konrad H. Jarausch

    From the Nuremberg trails to recent media revelations, evidence has steadily accumulated that German professionals were involved in the crimes of the Holocaust to a shocking degree. While the brutality of lower-class concentration camp guards may not be surprising, the betrayal of the Hippocratic oath by murderous doctors like Mengele affronts moral sensibilities.¹ Though the tirades of the anti-Semitic Brownshirts of the Sturmabteilung (SA) were to be expected, the justification of racial discrimination by legal theorists like Carl Schmitt continues to baffle observers. Even if the book-burning by Nazi students might be attributed to misguided enthusiasm, the darwing up of...

  7. Chapter 2 Civil Service Lawyers and the Holocaust: The Case of Wilhelm Stuckart
    (pp. 37-61)
    Hans-Christian Jasch

    A series of studies has demonstrated that the formulation of the Jewish policy of the Third Reich was not merely the work of ideologically motivated members of the Nazi Party and the SS, but also of officials in the more “traditional” ministerial bureaucracies.¹ The systematic deportations and the industrialized genocide would not have been possible without the complicity of an efficient civil service, which created the legal framework for depriving Jews of their fundamental rights. The genocide depended on a division of labor that was typical for modern and complex administrations. To overstep any moral boundaries required not only a...

  8. Chapter 3 Roland Freisler and the Volksgerichtshof: The Court as an Instrument of Terror
    (pp. 63-87)
    Robert D. Rachlin

    One of the Allied bombs that hit Berlin in early February 1945 smashed into the building in the Tiergarten district housing theVolksgerichtshof(VGH)—the People’s Court—a murderous tribunal in a murderous regime, ferociously presided over since August 1942 by Roland Freisler. Amidst the wreckage, Freisler lay dead, crushed under a fallen ceiling beam. Freisler, an early zealot of the Nazi movement, deployed his keen intellect and unshakable dedication to Hitler in a perversion of the forms of justice that were extreme even by the standards of the Third Reich. He wreaked retribution on perceived enemies of the state,...

  9. Chapter 4 Guilt, Shame, Anger, Indignation: Nazi Law and Nazi Morals
    (pp. 89-103)
    Raphael Gross

    This chapter examines the law in Nazi Germany in the context of its moral foundation and its underlying Nazi moral agenda. It may seem an oxymoron to refer to “Nazi law,” and it may seem even more problematic to employ terms like “Nazi morality” or “Nazi ethics.”¹ But during the Nazi period, German jurists continually developed new laws and implemented them in German courts.² Simultaneously, German society persisted in developing and implementing values rooted in shared moral sentiments such as guilt, shame, anger, or indignation. The desire to govern based on a set of shared moral values can be seen...

  10. Chapter 5 Discrimination, Degradation, Defiance: Jewish Lawyers under Nazism
    (pp. 105-135)
    Douglas G. Morris

    On 11 September 1933, in Samaden, Switzerland, outside St. Moritz, a Jewish German lawyer from Berlin shot himself to death.¹ On 30 January, Hitler had become Germany’s chancellor; on 27 February, a blazing fire gutted the main chamber of Germany’s Reichstag, its parliament building; and in late March, the lawyer’s partner had told him that he intended to dissolve their practice together. The partner denied being an anti-Semite, of course, but times had changed and he needed to worry about his own family and responsibilities. Around the same time, a former client, now a member of the SA, the organization...

  11. Chapter 6 Evading Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity: Murderous Lawyers at Nuremberg
    (pp. 137-159)
    Harry Reicher

    The Tribunal in the Justice Case¹ at Nuremberg summed it up very powerfully, “The dagger of the assassin was concealed beneath the robe of the jurist.”² With these words, said in April 1949, the Tribunal delivered a somber and sobering lesson: Lawyers are capable of committing hideous crimes, extending even to mass murder, and even while ostensibly carrying out their “normal” functions as lawyers.³

    After the principal trial at Nuremberg, which concluded on 1 October 1946, the United States, acting under international law and by agreement with the other allied victors in the Second World War, conducted a series of...

  12. Chapter 7 Judging German Judges in the Third Reich: Excusing and Confronting the Past
    (pp. 161-190)
    Kenneth F. Ledford

    In the early 1990s, a criminal judgement and sentence embroiled the insular world of the German judiciary in a great debate about Holocaust denial and the independence of the judiciary, reminding Germans and the world of earlier failures of German justice. On 22 June 1994, the Superior Court in Mannheim imposed a one-year suspended sentence upon Günter Deckert, leader of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, who stood accused and convicted of inciting the public, compounded by slander and defamation, disparagement of the memory of the dead, and fomenting race hatred.¹ In November 1991, Deckert had propagated Holocaust denial doctrines by...

  13. Appendix A. Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, 11 August 1919
    (pp. 191-191)
  14. Appendix B. Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State (Reichstag Fire Decree), 28 February 1933
    (pp. 192-193)
  15. Appendix C. Law to Remove the Distress of the People and the State (The Enabling Act), 23 March 1933
    (pp. 194-195)
  16. Appendix D. Hitler’s Call for a Nazi Lawyers’ League, 12 September 1928
    (pp. 196-196)
  17. Appendix E. Circular No. 8/1938 from Dr. Karl Leitmeyer, League of National Socialist Guardians of the Law, 4 March 1938
    (pp. 197-198)
  18. Appendix F. Law Amending Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure (Excerpts), 24 April 1934
    (pp. 199-201)
  19. Appendix G. White Rose-Leaflet 5, February 1943
    (pp. 202-203)
  20. Appendix H. The Sentencing of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, 22 February 1943
    (pp. 204-207)
  21. Appendix I. The Fate of Markus Luftglass: Excerpt From the Record of the Nuremberg Justice Case, October 1941
    (pp. 208-210)
  22. Appendix J. Opinion and Sentence of the Nuremberg Special Court in the Case of Leo Katzenberger, 13 March 1942
    (pp. 211-223)
  23. Appendix K. Testimony of Curt Rothenberger at the Nuremberg Justice Case (Excerpts ), 1947
    (pp. 224-229)
  24. Appendix L. Gustav Radbruch, “statutory Lawlessness and Supra-statutory Law” (excerpt) 1946
    (pp. 230-232)
  25. Contributors
    (pp. 233-235)
  26. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 236-240)
  27. Index
    (pp. 241-246)